A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 315 After his achievement that day he could speak to her as an equal. He was not only flying, but fighting. Had he not pledged himself to tell her everything either when his hopes had definitely collapsed or when he had become the equal of others in battle? He had now achieved his object. The two planes that he*had shot down fell into the scrub and burned there in sight of all. The officer of the day had recorded this in the wing log, and the report had gone to Divisional and Army Headquar- ters, and to Moscow. All this was true. He had fulfilled his pledge and he could now write. But when you come to think of it, was a "Stuka" a worthy foe for a fighter plane? A really good hunter would not claim in proof of his skill that he had shot, say, a hare, would he? The humid night grew darker in the wood. Now that the thunder of battle had receded southward and the glare of the now distant conflagrations was barely visible through the network of tree branches, all the night sounds of the fragrant, luxuriant summer wood could be distinctly heard—the frenzied rasping of the grasshop- pers in the glades, the guttural croaking of hundreds of frogs in the bog near by, the shrill cry of a corn-crake, and high above all this, the singing of the nightingales that reigned in the damp semi-darkness. Alexei was still sitting under the birch-tree on the soft but now dewy moss while patches of moonlight inter- spersed with black shadows crept along the grass at his feet. Again he drew the photograph from his pocket, placed it on his knee, and gazing at it in the light of the moon, he became lost in thought. One after another, small, dark silhouettes of night bombers sped southward overhead in the clear, dark-blue sky. Their engines droned in a low, bass key, but even this voice of war now sounded in the moonlit wood that rang with the singing of the nightingales like the peaceful buzzing of cockchaf- ers. Alexei sighed, put the photograph back into his tunic pocket and, springing to his feet, shook himself to throw off the enchantment of that night. Rustling the dry twigs on the ground, he quickly descended into the dugout where, stretched like a giant on his narrow soldier's couch,.Petrov was sound asleep and snoring lustily,.